Kia says its long-awaited ute will be Australia's benchmark diesel dual-cab, telling CarsGuide that it's "not mucking around" in its mission to overtake segment favourites like the Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger.
Speaking at the local unveiling of the new EV9 SUV, the brand said its first attempt at a ute had been carefully designed to ensure it succeeded in Australia.
"We're definitely aiming for (the benchmark)," said Kia Australia's product planning chief, Roland Rivero.
"We're not mucking around when it comes to the ute. We wan to make sure that the first attempt at a ute from our brand is one that's going to do well in our market."
The new ute – currently named Project TK, though the (still unconfirmed) name Tasman has been trademarked in Australia - is set to launch around the middle of 2025, where it won't just do battle with the current Ford Ranger, but also likely with an all-new Toyota HiLux, which is due around the same time.
Kia's ute has been in various stages of planning or development since 2019, meaning much of the platform and engine specifics have likely been locked in.
But asked whether the long lead time is a negative, given how many new or updated utes have either launched, or will launch, before Kia's offering arrives, the brand told CarsGuide there was enough fluidity in the program to ensure its product will be able to compete with whatever is coming down its competitors' pipe lines.
"Product planning needs lead time, and it's not just the product itself – it could also be accessory development," Rivero says.
"Bull bar development doesn't happen overnight, so you've got to draw a line in the sand and finalise a chassis design that a bull bar can bolt onto.
"What what can be still fairly fluid leading up to the date could be features that you only had planned to be (on higher grade models) might trickle down. So you still have some element of flexibility.
"But in terms of design and the basics of the chassis, you've got todraw a line on the sand and lock those in, and then work from there."
The brand has big plans for its ute, telling CarsGuide it expects the dual-cab to add up to 20,000 sales per year in Australia. Based on its 2022 full-year sales results, that would make the Tasman (or the TK) the brand's best-selling model, finishing ahead of both the Kia Sportage and the Kia Cerato.